Interest in new iPhones nears historic lows in new Cowen survey

When Cowen asked survey respondents what kind of cell phone they will purchase next, the results showed that loyalty for the iPhone is nearing its lowest levels since the firm started doing its quarterly surveys. (Cowen and Company)

Touted as the “future of the smartphone,” Apple’s iPhone X doesn’t appear to be sparking the kind of interest among consumers that the company’s products once did. A new survey by Wall Street research firm Cowen found that the number of current U.S. iPhone owners planning to buy a new iPhone “was near the lowest levels since conducting our survey.”

“iPhone appeal moderating across the industry,” the firm wrote in a new report. “When asked ‘what kind of cell phone do you think you will get with your next upgrade/purchase,’ the percent of postpaid respondents at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon selecting iPhone moderated vs. last quarter while at the same time just 80.5% of postpaid respondents who already have an iPhone indicated they will get one with their next upgrade/purchase, which was near the lowest levels since conducting our survey and was down from 87.6% last quarter.”

Cowen has been conducting quarterly consumer surveys since 2013. The firm recently completed its latest quarterly survey ahead of the fourth-quarter earnings season, asking roughly 1,100 respondents about their wireless service and phone preferences. The results, according to the firm, paint a clearly concerning picture for smartphone vendor Apple.

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“The moderating interest seems to reflect the higher price of the iPhone X and/or lack of compelling new features as the new iPhones collectively appear to have had only limited impact on C4Q17 sales,” the Cowen analysts wrote.

Apple announced its new iPhone X in September. At the time, Apple’s Tim Cook described the device as “the future of the smartphone” and said the gadget “will set the path for technology for the next decade.” However, the phone carries a $1,000 price tag and hasn’t received the kind of promotions and discounts from the nation’s wireless carriers that some other Apple products have in the past.

Cowen’s findings dovetail with some other recent findings. For example, Apple’s share of the smartphone operating system market in the United States fell during the three-month period ending in November despite the release of three much-anticipated high-end handsets, according to fresh data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

According to Counterpoint Research, Apple is the nation’s second-largest smartphone vendor with roughly 28% of the market, just behind Samsung’s 31%.

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Interestingly, Cowen said its survey also showed that smartphone users overall are planning to hold on to their phones much longer than in the past. The firm said that the percent of postpaid respondents who plan to hold onto their phone for two years or more rose to 34.1%, notably up from the 23% who said they would in the same survey three years ago. The Cowen analysts added that the trend appears to be driven by the introduction of equipment installment plans, which allow wireless users to more clearly see how much their phones cost.